An Introduction to Link Building
While SEO and link building have always gone hand-in-hand, the importance of building high-quality links has never been a higher ranking factor. It’s often the single reason that one page ranks more highly than a competitor’s, so it’s essential to understand the importance of link building as part of a high-quality SEO campaign to compete for online visibility and links to your site.
Whether you’re new to link building, or you’ve been building backlinks for a while now, this blog is designed to help you understand link building, its importance, types of links, and how link building can benefit your business.
What is Link Building?
Link building is simply the process of building hyperlinks from other websites back to your own. Search engines crawl the links between the individual pages on your website and the links between entire websites to determine what counts as a good link.
A link to your site sends a signal to Google that your website is a quality resource on the subject, worthy of a citation. Sites with more backlinks tend to earn higher rankings from Google. SEOs often refer to this as “link juice”.
There are many types of link building techniques you can use, and while they all vary in difficulty and complexity, link building is one of the time-consuming parts of an SEO’s job. And not all links are created equal. For example, a link from the Guardian will be of a lot more value to you than one from an unknown travel blogger’s website.
Why is Link Building Important for SEO?
Link building is an important part of SEO services because it helps search engines discover new web pages, and determines which pages should rank higher in the SERPs.
Google says of link building:
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”
Meaning that when using link building strategies, your focus should be on earning links because you’ve created great content that your users want to share – not just link building for search engines.
Link building is one of the most important ranking factors for Google, alongside:
- On-page SEO and content optimisation
- Trust and authority of the website
- Site loading speed
- User experience elements
White hat SEO vs Black hat SEO
When it comes to link building, there is a right way and a wrong way. For the long term viability and performance of your website, your link building tactics should be done naturally, and follow the webmaster guidelines set in place by Google.
White hat SEO is the process of using organic link building tactics to better your online visibility in search results. These techniques get a thumbs up from Google, but usually take more time than black hat techniques. White SEO link building techniques could include:
- Guest posting
- Promoting your content
- Creating infographics
- Building online relationships
- Commenting on authority blogs and blog posts
- Using website directories and business listings
Black hat SEO methods are unethical practices that help your website rank in search engines. These methods are generally frowned upon by Google, and, if Google finds that your techniques violate their quality guidelines, your site could get hit with a manual penalty. These can cost you your hard-earned rankings and take a lot of time to remove and get SEO performance back on track. Black hat SEO techniques include:
- Hidden links
- Link schemes
- Doorway pages
- Keyword stuffing
- Automatically generated content
- Abusing structured data or anchor text
- & basically anything malicious or spammy
Follow v Nofollow links
Attributes can be added to links that tell Google’s crawl to “count” this link, these are called “follow” or “do follow” links. Follow links are a vote of confidence for Google.
There is also a “no follow” attribute that can sometimes be applied. Note the rel=”nofollow” addition below:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a
This tells Google not to pass any PageRank, or “link juice” to this link. Essentially, you’re telling Google not to trust the link and that it shouldn’t be considered in your backlink profile.
Why might you use a nofollow? They are more useful than you might expect. Nofollows allow websites to gain total control over the links that are added to their pages.
Remember the Black hat SEO tactics we mentioned? Well, in the times before the nofollow attribute, spammy SEO techniques were rampant, with SEOs trying to artificially boost their websites. With the introduction of the nofollow, most spammers won’t bother posting irrelevant links since they know they won’t get a “follow” link.
While you still see spammy blog comments and websites, it dampened the practice and weakened the effect it has on more authoritative websites.
You might be wondering where these “no to follow” links belong. Nofollow links can be used in:
- Blog Comments
- Yahoo! Answers
- Wiki pages, such as Wikipedia
- Guest Book Comments
- Guest Post Signatures
These are the types of places where users can freely post and add links. Since it isn’t practical to moderate every single spammy link, you can choose to add a “no follow” to all links posted by other users, however, this is down to the discretion of the website. For example, you might choose to reward a user who regularly engages with your discussion.
Learn more about the difference between follow vs no-follow links to your site.
How can Link Building services help my business?
As we’ve discussed, the importance of links makes a difference to search engine rankings. The way we’ve interacted with and used link building has changed over the years, but it remains a cornerstone of any SEO strategy.
Other than benefits to your SEO performance, link building can help to build your business or brand with many other considerable benefits.
Link building, when done right, can help build up your brand and establish authority in your industry. You want your brand to be at the forefront of your industry – content marketing techniques that involve high-quality content creation and guest posting can help you do this. Showing the expertise of your company can go a long way in brand building, and as an authoritative voice, you’ll be known for what you publish in the industry whilst being rewarded with authoritative inbound links.
A good link from a highly-visited website not only earns you “link juice”, but also can lead to an increase in traffic. If you’re linking to websites that are relevant to yours, chances are their traffic is relevant, too. This doesn’t just apply to the high traffic sites – often a small, very passionate audience from a relevant blog is better than reaching a larger, more general audience.
Link building strategies often involve outreach to relevant websites or blogs, relating to a piece you’ve created, an engaging infographic, or a promotion. While the main goal of outreach is, of course, to gain a link, outreach can help your business build long term relationships with key people in your industry. These relationships can help build your brand, build your network, and build authority. Whether they are a site owner or key influencers, the value of connecting with others and becoming trustworthy in your industry is priceless.
Greater sales opportunities
Referral traffic from relevant sites leads to more potential customers, which leads to more sales. Not only from the boost in rankings that link building will give you but also from the highly qualified referral traffic that you’ve gained from different types of links. This means you can sell more products or services, and generate revenue from a new avenue.
Link building has been an important part of SEO for a long time, and it seems like it’s here to stay. Google will always want to serve its users the most authoritative sites, with the most loved content.
At Tecmark, an SEO agency in Manchester, we’ve been helping clients climb the search results with efficient link building strategies for over 14 years. If you want to achieve real success with your link building efforts, get in touch with us.